Memories at 4:00 AM
By: Phil Strawn
My father, Port Aransas, Texas, 1957
My father didn’t own a beach chair, nor did he want one. He preferred to sit on his haunches or stand when he fished. My grandfather, the old salt of the clan, felt the same; real men took their fishing seriously in 1957 and didn’t need such things. They smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes and carried a Zippo lighter and Barlow pocketknife in their pant pocket. If it was summer, my dad waded into the surf, sometimes up to his waist, which worried my mother; she feared a sand shark or a giant octopus would drag him beneath the waves and leave my sister and me fatherless. She fretted about the monsters in the ocean and would have a panic attack if she got more than knee-deep in the surf. She couldn’t swim a lick, thanks to her mother’s lifelong fear of water which she instilled in her children. However, my baby sister was fearless and would keep plodding headlong into the surf until one of my parents or I rescued her.
My family lived inland, four hundred miles to the northern part of Texas. The journey from Fort Worth to Port Aransas took eight, sometimes nine hours, but we could have made it in six if not for my mother wanting to stop for lunch at Franks restaurant in Schulenberg and a potty break every hour. The women in her family were cursed with an uncooperative bladder.
We were city folks, but our hearts and souls were one with the Gulf of Mexico and that small island village. I never considered myself a city boy; Fort Worth was where we stayed until our next trip to our natural home, the ocean. Home to me was Gibbs Cottages or the Rock Cottages on G street. Bilmore and Son’s Hardware sold tackle, bait, and gas, and the Island Grocery had the best baloney and rat cheese sandwiches in Texas. The only church in town kept everyone saved and signed up for heaven, and Shorty’s was the most popular beer joint in town and served ice-cold Pearl beer in dark glass bottles.
The magic was always there, winter or summer; it never changed. The ever-shifting dunes and beach grass waved like grain fields in the southern breeze. The sea birds ran along the shoreline, paying no attention to us interlopers. The gulls would assault me if I had a sandwich or a bag of potato chips, and the brown Pelicans glided above the water like a formation of B-24 bombers. There were rattlesnakes in the dunes, but I never ran across one. I once disturbed a napping Coyote; it snorted and trotted off into the grasslands behind the dunes.
Memories come to me at inconvenient times. This one woke me up at 4:00 am, so I figured I had better write it down. Who knows what memory tomorrow may bring?
~Check out Phil Strawn’s The Legend of Lawnmower Ted a story of his father fishing the beaches of Port Aransas in 1957.
~To read more by Phil Strawn check out: NOTES FROM THE CACTUS PATCH : “Tall Tales and Ripping Yarns from The Great State Of Texas”